Wish You Were Here
Magazine Online    The Authority On African-American Conventions, Incentives, & Leisure Travel
Issue: March/April 2013
Planners Keep Florida Top-Of-Mind For Meetings & Conferences
By: Michael Bennett
Meeting planners are always on the lookout for ways to spice up their events and that usually starts with selecting the right locale. Many look no further than Florida. The beautiful beaches, world-famous attractions, warm weather and tropical breezes along with activities galore make the state an ideal destination for group gatherings. The Sunshine state has an energy and excitement hard to duplicate anywhere else.

Florida has several distinct regions within the state. The Florida panhandle from Pensacola to Tallahassee over to Jacksonville features a Deep Southern Charm. It’s a small town feel that’s equally disarming and charming. It’s a great change for those accustomed to the hustle and bustle of big city life.

Florida panhandle beaches are arguably the best in the United States, and are recognized the world over for sugary white sand and warm crystal clear Gulf waters. From Destin to Panama City Beach you won’t find better beaches anywhere. Panama City Beach is a spring break haven for college students.

Central Florida from the Atlantic Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico is the bridge that binds the state together. It’s dotted with small towns much like the panhandle region then burst with excitement with its unique combination of man-made wonders from golf course to the magical world of Disney and Universal Studios.

From Orlando and Kissimmee to Daytona Beach, St Petersburg, Tampa and Vero Beach there’s more to do in a relatively small geographic area than most countries. Daytona Beach is not only known for the NASCAR race that bears its name, it’s home to HBCU Bethune-Cookman and a spring break destination of choice for African-Americans for decades.

South Florida is a completely different vibe than its brethren from the northern parts of the state. Equal parts chic, luxury, leisure and business; South Florida could easily be its own state. It’s the gateway to Latin America and has quickly and quietly transformed itself to a business and financial center.

Meeting planners have difficult choices because there’re just so many. It’s the quiet of the Gulf Coast communities of Fort Myers and Naples, the high-energy of Miami, Fort Lauderdale and Palm Beach, or a complete getaway destination such as Key West.

The Sunshine State has it all for meetings and group travel. To learn more start your journey here: http://www.visitflorida.com/en-us/meetings.html.



LOOKING FOR THE IDEAL MEETING? IT’S SO MIAMI
Miami is spectacular beaches, world-class boutiques, the trendiest hotels, clubs and restaurants. It’s state-of-the-art performing arts centers, bustling downtown, major sports venues, the 650,000+ sq. ft. Miami Beach Convention Center, two national parks, and a convergence of cultures unmatched in America.

It’s half tropical playground, half metropolis — half nostalgic, half futuristic — half rooftop plunge pool — half eco-wonderland, and half global business capital.
It’s So Miami.

But that’s only the halves of it. For the whole picture, you need to visit. No tweet, blog post, or feature article can capture what makes Miami so uniquely meeting-worthy. Colors are bright here. Tastes are sweeter. Breezes, balmier. And meetings are more productive.

Shop the world’s largest collection of designer boutiques. Café-hop on legendary Ocean Drive. Mop up the mural-covered walls of Wynwood. Sail at sunset. Jog at dawn. Tour Miami Modern architectural treasures by moped. Eat dinner at midnight, or breakfast at noon — al fresco. Skim across the Everglades on an airboat. Get to know a dolphin firsthand. Meet eyes with a macaw or an alligator. Cast for an exclusive bonefish.

Watch a Dolphin throw for six, a Marlin pitch a no-hitter, a Panther clear the puck, or the Heat rock the court. Find a thousand places to see and be seen — and just as many hidden places to sit quietly and catch your breath. It’s all so Miami. One more surprise: über-hip Miami is also family-friendly. Between our attractions and our year-round supply of beaches and parks, there’s plenty to keep the kids happy. If you’re looking for the most exciting, outstanding, sensuous and memorable site to hold your next meeting, remember: It’s So Miami.

The Greater Miami area has over 48,000 hotel rooms with many unique properties. South Beach is home to the largest collection of restored Art Deco, Art Nouveau and cutting-edge boutique hotels. A new or renovated property sprouts up every few months in this great city. With over 5,000 restaurants there’s a little something for every palate. Miami lets you set your own pace. While its known for its youthful, energetic lifestyle there is plenty to do for those seeking a slower pace.

Visit miamimeetings.com or call (305) 539-3071 to learn more and to order your free Meeting Planner Guide.



MILES OF SUGAR WHITE SANDY BEACHES — WELCOME TO PENSACOLA

Revel in the natural beauty of this pristine coastline. Stroll through time at sites chronicling 450 years of history. Immerse yourself in culture and experience lively festivals celebrating food, music, art, and local heritage, all while enjoying the warmth and Southern hospitality of its people.

Food lovers will delight in the cuisine of this charming city from fresh sushi to Southern cuisine fusion to straight-from-the-docks seafood as you dine with the “Pensacola Celebrity Chefs” at their locally-owned restaurants.

The city has a vibrant nightlife with plenty of places to wet your whistle, enjoy a smooth cocktail or a sophisticated bar atmosphere with a little music.  Meeting planners have options galore regardless of whether you’re organizing a large event or small creative meeting. Venues and hotels will take you from downtown to beachfront with traditional, urban, natural and historic settings.

The city boasts over 250,000 sq. ft. of meeting space. Planners have four key areas to choose from to conduct their events. Over on Pensacola Beach, the largest of the many properties is the Hilton Pensacola Beach Gulf Front, with over 6,700 sq. ft. of meeting space with a capacity of 700. Want to incorporate a little golf, head to Perdido Key Area and the Lost Key Golf Club.

Pensacola’s downtown area features the 22,000-sq. ft. Pensacola Civic Center with a capacity of 10,000 and several hotels within walking distance. Over in the Pensacola Bay area is the National Naval Aviation Museum, often used for large gatherings with 10,000 sq. ft. that holds up to 1,100 people.

African-Americans played a critical role in settling the Pensacola area. Visitors can spend an afternoon exploring the city’s rich history on the African-American Heritage Trial, which leads you through downtown.

Meeting attendees should stop in Belmont-Devillers to visit the Devillers Cultural Heritage Museum and make a pit stop at Five Sisters Blue Café for some Southern fried chicken. Water activities are a big part of life in Pensacola with 52 miles of coastline, pristine rivers and the sparkling Gulf of Mexico. Visitors can jet ski in Santa Rosa Sound, learn to sail, look for dolphins in Pensacola Bay, book a charter for deep sea fishing, scuba dive or float down Backwater River or Coldwater Creek in the “Canoe Capital of the World.” For more information on meetings in Pensacola, call (800) 874-1234 or visit VisitPensacola.com.



ORLANDO – THE WORLD’S MEETING CAPITAL
The combination of world-class meeting facilities, top hotel brands, warm weather and outdoor recreation and amusement is a powerful draw to meeting planners worldwide. It’s the place where dreams, both meetings and vacations all come true. Theme parks, beautiful weather, great golf, nightlife and relaxation are the hallmarks of this central Florida paradise.

The Orange County Convention Center is the nation’s second largest, comprised of two buildings connected by a 1,500-ft. open-air bridge with moving sidewalks. The facility has over 2.1 million sq. ft. of exhibition space plus 480,000 sq. ft. of function space, including meeting rooms.

Orlando is also known for its many properties with in-house meeting space such as the DoubleTree Hilton. There are several DoubleTree properties conveniently located; one downtown, another at the entrance to Universal Orlando, anther at the airport, Seaworld and Lake Buena Vista.

Walt Disney World has multiple properties and meeting locales throughout its theme park. Disney’s Boardwalk Resort, Disney’s Contemporary Resort, Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort and Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort and Spa to name a few. Go to disneymeetings.com for more information or call (321) 939-7129. For more on the greater Orlando area meetings and conventions go to orlandomeeting.com or call (800) 643-0482.



FORT LAUDERDALE, WORLD-CLASS MEETINGS, SUN, SURF & SHOPPING
Long one of America’s premiere meeting destinations, Fort Lauderdale is also famous for its beaches, arts, culture and events. From shopping on Las Olas Boulevard to gondola rides on the canals, to a historic riverfront, this has become a meeting destination of choice for African-Americans.

Just two miles north of Port Everglades, you can experience a landscaped beachfront promenade, with its signature white wave wall and brick paved path. Across the street, visit luxury hotels, and enjoy shopping or dining on a 90-minute amphibious tour of quaint Las Olas Boulevard, historical districts, and the mansions and yachts dotting Millionaires Row.

And speaking of Port Everglades, this is the perfect opportunity for meeting planners to add a little work at sea to their schedules or, an end-of-event cruise. Port Everglades is home base to several cruises lines that will take you and your members to the Caribbean, through the Panama Canal or across the Atlantic. With an average year-round temperature of 77 degrees and activities galore there is no such thing as a bad time in Fort Lauderdale.

The rich multicultural feel is a big draw for African American and Caribbean travelers alike. The African American Research Library and Cultural Center or the Old Dillard Museum, both are great places to begin a cultural excursion. Lets not forget the Seminoles are an important peace of the fabric that makes up this region. Learn about the Seminole Tribe at the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum.

If your travels take you to the city in mid-March, check out the Annual Jazz in the Gardens. This year’s event hosted by radio personality Michael Baisden drew over 63,000 people from the United States and Europe. Performers included; NeYo, Earth Wind & Fire and Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds.

Fort Lauderdale is a beacon for African-American family reunions. It’s a tradition dating back to Emancipation. Today those reunions take on an international flavor due in large measure to the city’s proximity to the Caribbean and others from the African Diaspora. It’s recommended that you begin planning any family reunion 18 to 24 months in advance.

For a little nightlife and gaming, Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino – Hollywood is just moments away. Former NBA great Alonzo Mourning holds his “Zo’s Summer Groove” here in mid-July. Previous performers include D. L. Hughley and Dave Chapelle.

The 100 Black Men of America, The National Baptist Sunday School Conference, The National Black Accountants, The Pentecostal Assemblies of the World along with the Progressive National Baptist Convention, The Airport Minority Advisory Conference, Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity and the National Black Child Welfare Institute have held events in Fort Lauderdale recently, and many are repeat customers who have fostered long-term relationships with Fort Lauderdale. The National Urban League recently announced plans to hold their 2015 Annual Conference in the greater Fort Lauderdale area.
The 600,000-sq. ft. Gold LEED certified Broward County Convention Center is the premiere gathering spot for large or small events. This facility features high-tech meeting and exhibit space, five-star food service, an Internet café and elegant banquet rooms. This three-level facility nestled on the Intracoastal Waterway is surrounded by six hotel properties known as the Lauderdale Convention Collection. In total, there are 2,700 rooms within 1.5 miles of the Broward County Convention Center, many with beach or Intracoastal views.

Getting to Fort Lauderdale couldn’t be easier. All the major carriers fly into the Fort Lauderdale/Hollywood International Airport. The airport is approximately three miles from all the top attractions and you can actually see the cruises ships docked at Port Everglades from the airport or your window seat on the plane. For more information, contact Albert Tucker at (954) 767-2456, atucker@broward.org or visit sunny.org/multicultural.

TALLAHASSEE – THE PLACE WHERE IT ALL COMES TOGETHER
It’s “Viva Florida 500” as the state embarks on a yearlong celebration of the 500th anniversary of Spain’s arrival. Stop by Museum of Florida History’s ‘Forever Changed Exhibit: La Florida 1513-1821” and the Florida Historic Capitol Museum with its exhibit “Navigating New Worlds: Identity, Perception, and Politics in Florida.”

For African-American culture head to Florida A&M University. Established in 1887, it is Florida’s oldest historically Black public university. A trip to a Florida A&M football game for the halftime show featuring the FAMU Marching Band is worth a trip all by itself.

The John G. Riley Museum of African American Culture and History sits on the fringe of Smokey Hollow, once a working-class Black neighborhood whose residents included the mother of jazz greats Nat and Cannonball Adderly and Amos cookies creator Wallace Amos.

Frenchtown is perhaps Tallahassee’s best-known Black neighborhood. In the 1830s historic plantations, churches, homesteads, educational institutions, businesses and residences filled the area. It became the destination of choice for freed slaves after the Civil War, helping the community develop into a thriving middle-class. A few original structures remain, but preservation efforts are underway.

Take a self-guide tour of Tallahassee African American Heritage. This PDF has a complete list of most sites including those mentioned above: http://www.visittallahassee.com/uploads/uploads/itineraries/desktop_pdfs/african-american-heritage-self-guided-tour.pdf. This is a great way to incorporate a little culture and heritage into any meeting or convention.

Florida’s state capital features over 6,000 hotel rooms and 400,000 sq. ft. of meeting space. The city has a variety of meeting venues for groups from 10 — 1,200 people. From the Florida State University Conference Center with 47,000 sq. ft. of state-of-the-art meeting space to conference hotels, such as Tallahassee’s newest boutique, Hotel Duval with its eight meeting rooms including a rooftop ballroom overlooking downtown, the city has a little something for every meeting planner.

There are several unique attractions with meeting space such as the Tallahassee Automobile Museum. This facility has several meeting and banquet rooms; the largest is The Duesenberg Banquet Hall with seating for 900 at tables or 1,500 using a theater-seating layout.

The Tallahassee Regional Airport is serviced by American Airlines, Delta, Silver Airways and US Air Express and moves approximately 700,000 passengers a year through its gates.

For more information go to http://www.visittallahassee.com/meetings-and-events/ or call Janet Roach, Meetings and Conventions director at (850) 606-2320. There’s also a downloadable Meeting & Events Planners Guide on the website to get you started.
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